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During the War of the Pacific (1879-1883), Chile took valuable stretches of Pacific coast from its defeated Andean neighbors. Peru lost territory, but Bolivia lost the entire Department of the Litoral, a desert region that included substantial mineral and nitrate holdings, but also the country’s only access to the sea. The resulting wound to Bolivia’s potential for modern development, to hear Bolivians tell it, has never healed. Reclaiming access to this lost coastline has remained a diplomatic concern between Bolivia and Chile into the twenty-first century, just as attempts to secure Atlantic access have driven diplomatic struggles between Bolivia and Paraguay in the past century. At the same time, the contested litoral has always been a transnational and transgressive space of contraband, ambiguous sovereignty and ties that bind Chileans, Bolivians, and Peruvians to global commerce and a shifting environment. Now that Bolivia is landlocked, however, does it make sense to speak of Bolivia’s ties to the Pacific world discussed by scholars such as Savala, Cushman, or Matsuda? In this talk I will follow some of the Bolivians who traversed this space in the decades after the War of the Pacific to ask how we can think analytically about a lost coast and its meaning to those who no longer control it.

Elena McGrath is John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Assistant Professor of History at Union College in New York and a host of the New Books in Latin American Studies podcast. Her research interests include gender, race, and revolution in the Andes, and she is working on a book manuscript entitled, Devil's Bargains: Miners, Indians and Citizens at the Limits of the Bolivian Revolution.

All welcome – This event is free, but booking is required.

Details on how to join this session will be sent to all registered attendees 24 hours in advance.  Booking will therefore close the day before the scheduled date.